Laying the foundation for cybersecurity in Africa

Posted by Cheick Diarra
Chairman for Africa

Two weeks ago I had the honor of participating in the third African ICT Best Practices Forum in Burkina Faso, where I met with government leaders from across Africa to discuss one of the most pressing issues in public sector ICT right now: cyber security.

As Internet penetration increases across the continent, so does the risk of sophisticated cyber attacks, threatening African nations’ security, infrastructure, economic growth and citizen services. Microsoft detected over 126 million samples of malware worldwide in the second half of 2009 alone, an increase of 8.9% over the first half of the year. Worse still is the association of cybercrime with Africa, where such countries as Nigeria have become synonymous with advance fee fraud or “419” scams. The cybercriminals who pose as government “officials” requesting assistance in exchange for advance payments undermine the trust as well as the freedom of a healthy Internet economy.

At Microsoft, we believe our ability to retain the confidence of ICT adopters in both government and society rests on three urgent areas of intervention against cyber threats in Africa, and around the world:

  1. Collaboration: Government with government, industry with industry, and government with industry. Local, national, regional and international cooperation is key to meet and deal with the range and breadth of threats and citizens' expectations.
  2. Assessment: The use of risk management principles must be at the core of security investments. Accurate and proactive assessment of and planning for cyber threats is crucial for managing cyber security incidents.
  3. Appropriate regulation: By ensuring a system of appropriate laws, policies and resources are in place to investigate, prosecute, and punish criminals as necessary.

While these three principles provide a practical framework for the development of government's effective cyber security policies, we are also working closely with law enforcement to combat cybercrime. Microsoft is looking forward to joining the Economic and Financial Crime Commission of Nigeria, U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), Council of Europe, Serious Crime Organisation, Interpol, and other members of the ICT industry at the West Africa Cybercrime Summit in Nigeria in October 2010, where we hope to take the best practices outlined in Burkina Faso a step further by developing multi-lateral commitments to put an end to cybercrime.

Comments (1)

  1. Joel Patenaude says:

    I think the goal should be realistic and should be aimed at minimizing cybercrime, not putting an end to it.  

    Cyber-criminals might also respond to alternatives.   Try making a legitimate living online in Nigeria, where e-commerce is in the stone ages and credit cards are largely unavailable and very problematic.   A handful of young guys are blogging and developing audiences that allow them to monetize their activities, but they are few and far between.  

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